THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Eisenbach, Germany) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 14, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JAMES STEINBERG
Thuringer Hof Hotel Eisenbach, Germany
5:51 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: With great pleasure, I introduce the Deputy National Security Advisor, James Steinberg.
Q Can we ask some questions of Mr. Steinberg?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that's why he's here. (Laughter.) That's why I brought him down here.
MR. STEINBERG: Let me clear my throat first, Wolf, and then you can ask me something.
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have anything we are affirmatively placing in action.
MR. STEINBERG: I'm just going to tell a little bit about tomorrow's summit.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we'll do a little set-up first for tomorrow.
MR. STEINBERG: First, I want to welcome you all to beautiful Thuringia. For those of you who are security buffs, we're 30 kilometers away from the frontier of the Cold War, not far from the Volta Gap and all those favorite sites that we always used to visit from the other side. But it is very exciting and encouraging to be here and to see what the people of the former East Germany and now the new states of the Federal Republic of Germany have accomplished. I think it's an extraordinary day and really a testimony to the determination of the people of Germany to build a new life in this united Federal Republic.
I just want to say a word to remind you about the schedule, for those of you who have forgotten Sandy's briefing from earlier in the week, about tomorrow, just so you have a sense of what's going to go forward. And then I will take your questions.
We will begin tomorrow with a bilateral between the President and Prime Minister Hashimoto. We will obviously discuss a number of economic issues both concerning the Asia financial crisis, the international economic situation, and the situation with respect to Japan's own economy. The leaders will also review and discuss a number of the topics that will be on the agenda for the G-8, including economic development issues, climate change, and crime. They will also undoubtedly talk about a number of issues of the day in terms of international foreign policy.
The President will then have lunch with President Chirac --
Q -- India?
MR. STEINBERG: I think it's reasonably certain -- I mean, obviously this is a decision for the two of them, but given the strong stance that both of our governments have taken on the issue of India, I think it's reasonably likely that they will discuss India.
He will then have lunch with President Chirac. Again, the agenda will have many things in common, although I think it's likely that President Clinton and President Chirac will also talk about a number of the transatlantic issues, including the recent decision of our Senate to ratify the enlargement of NATO, looking forward to the NATO summit next year in Washington. The President, I'm sure, will want to talk to President Chirac about the decision of the members of the EU who are going forward with the EMU and their plans for the future there and how can cooperate better as well. Again, discussing the issues that are going to be coming up in the Birmingham Summit itself, particularly Africa, where both President Clinton and President Chirac have a great deal of interest and where our two countries are working together much more closely in terms of trying to support and develop economic and political reform in Africa.
That will be followed by a meeting of the seven leaders to discuss lessons learned from the Asian financial crisis and some of the steps we're taking on developing the international financial architecture. They'll be receiving a report from their finance ministers and discussing where we are and where we're going in terms of adapting the international financial institutions for the 21st century.
Then the formal Summit of Birmingham will start, with a reception and a dinner of the eight leaders. The schedule has always planned to be fluid for the dinner for Friday night and the contemplation has always been it would give them a chance to discuss foreign policy topics of the day. And I think that it's reasonably likely that we can expect discussions of India, Indonesia, Bosnia-Kosovo, and perhaps the Middle East peace process among others.
That's tomorrow's activities.
Q How troubling are the signs of Pakistan maybe on the verge of exploding a nuclear device?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, as I think you all know, we have strongly urged Pakistan not to follow in the steps of India. We think it is in the interest of both Pakistan and the world not to explode a nuclear device. We think that it would contribute to the further destablization of the region and could harm Pakistan's own security. The President has made that point to Prime Minister Sharif. The group of officials that are headed to Pakistan will make similar points and we very much hope that they will take that course.
Q Do you see troubling signs that indicate they may be under a lot of pressure to go ahead and do it?
MR. STEINBERG: Certainly there's clearly a lot of pressure domestically on the government of Pakistan with respect to this. They're obviously concerned about the fact that the Indian government has gone forward, and the people of Pakistan have indicated their concerns about what that means for the security of Pakistan itself. I'm not going to comment specifically on the kinds of evidence that's available to us, but we are especially concerned to make clear to the government of Pakistan that we think that that would be the wrong way to go.
Q Is the U.S. government offering to take other steps that would help Pakistan feel secure? For instance, releasing those private jets that Pakistan has long wanted to buy?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, as I think you know, for some time, back to when Prime Minister Bhutto was Prime Minister of Pakistan and visited the United States, the President has made clear that he thinks it would be appropriate for the United States to help compensate Pakistan for the fact that we are unable to deliver the F-16s, that there's a kind of obligation, given the fact that the Pakistanis actually paid for them that some form of compensation be arranged. We have been working in a number of ways to try to achieve that, including trying to find other buyers for the planes. And we obviously are going to continue to pursue that because we think that's the right thing to do.
Q So we would reimburse them for the planes, not actually let them have the planes?
MR. STEINBERG: We have no plans other than the ones that I've discussed, which is to find some way to compensate them for that.
Q No plans to try and move some way -- further away from the Pressler Amendment?
MR. STEINBERG: We certainly have not discussed any steps of that sort. I think our focus right now is in trying to make clear to the government of Pakistan our view and hope to persuade them that it should be their view that their security would be harmed rather than advantaged by moving forward. If an arms race were entered into and further steps were taken, there's obviously a danger of further steps on both sides, contributing to greater instability in the region. And so we think that in terms of the strong international support that Pakistan would gain from the international community by deferring, that that by itself would help to strengthen Pakistan's own position.
Q Do you take the view that it is still possible to persuade Pakistan not to do its own test? And how do you assess the prospects of that? And what more can this two-person delegation do than the President did himself in a phone call with the Prime Minister?
MR. STEINBERG: I don't want to predict what the outcome of this will be. This is a decision the government of Pakistan will make. There will be a lot of factors, I'm sure, that go into its decision. But we are certainly determined to make every effort that we can to persuade them that this is not a desirable course to pursue.
And I think that one of the reasons why we thought it would be useful to have a group go out there -- and the Pakistani government seemed to agree to that -- was that we can have more in-depth discussions about the overall situation, to talk about why we believe it would not be in Pakistan's interest to go down that road.
General Zinni, in particular, has had good longstanding contacts with members of the military, so that he is able to discuss the military dimensions of the security situation in South Asia. Secretary Talbott has been deeply engaged in his own right with the foreign policy team in the Pakistani government. So there are personal relationships there that could help build on it.
Obviously, it's difficult in a phone call to be able to get into the same kind of depth. There is also the chance to talk to other professionals, senior advisors to the Prime Minister, I think is an important opportunity, and we clearly wanted to take advantage of any opportunity that we can to have as detailed discussions as they think would be helpful so we could really work our way through these questions.
Q How long do you expect them to stay, and who all are they going to meet?
MR. STEINBERG: I do not precisely who they're going to meet, though I would expect it would be both senior foreign ministry and military officials -- both the Ministry of Defense and the army. Our expectation is that they would be returning on Saturday. We're expecting Secretary Talbott to join the President's party in Moscow -- in London on Sunday in connection with the bilateral with President Yeltsin.
Q Will they meet the --
MR. STEINBERG: I can't say for sure. I certainly think that that's one of the options.
Q Jim, if they're not prepared to push for an adjustment of the Pressler Amendment, are they likely to offer other inducements that you feel would bolster Pakistan's security?
MR. STEINBERG: Obviously, we want to hear the Pakistani government out. If they have specific ideas, we're obviously going to listen to them. But what I'm saying is that we don't have any specific things that we're going to propose at this time.
Q Have you seen any signs, troubling or otherwise, from China, re position of their forces?
MR. STEINBERG: What we have seen from China is a very strong statement condemning the decision of India. We have been in touch at high levels with the Chinese government. I think you know that the Secretary of State spoke with the Foreign Minister -- I believe it was yesterday -- I'm losing track of days here -- but in connection with this. There have also been good discussions at the U.N. with their permanent representative there.
I think that there is -- we obviously would not like to see anybody take any actions in response to the Indian situation that would exacerbate it, but I'm at least personally not aware of any specific actions of the Chinese that would be of concern.
Q On the G-8, to what degree has the Indian issue changed the dynamics of what's going to be discussed there? Is there going to be an effort to either have India included in the communique or some sort of separate statement? What do you think will be in there?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, I think it's fair to say that if you had asked a week were they going to have a discussion of India, it's less likely that that would have been true. But the whole purpose of having this sort of unscheduled opportunity on the Friday evening dinner is the experience with G-8s is that it's not uncommon that there are important foreign policy developments that happen on the eve. I think many of you veterans of this will recall, for example, just before the Halifax Summit that the situation deteriorated very badly in Bosnia in connection with Srebrenica, and there was a very important discussion of Bosnia at that time.
I can't predict as to whether there is going to be a statement because it's really the leaders themselves who have to decide that. Even for us sherpas, it's not a decision that we can make. I think that they will discuss the situation. They will have the option of doing something, but certainly no decision has been made at this point with respect to whether a statement will be issued on this or any other topic.
Q Doesn't the U.S. want a statement from the other nations, from the eight?
MR. STEINBERG: I think what we've seen is -- I believe it's the case that all eight of the governments have spoken very clearly on this issue, and we want all governments to continue to do it. Whether they decide that the appropriate vehicle to do that is a statement coming out of the meeting, or whatever, I just can't predict because it's really a choice that they will have to make.
But I think that what we have made clear, and I think we're pleased with the fact that all these governments have spoken very clearly to this issue. There is no support for what India has done, India is quite isolated, and the language has been very clear and unequivocal from all the members of the G-8 about the fact that they strongly disagree with what India has done, and it's clearly going to have an impact on India's relations with these countries.
Q With the chaos today in Jakarta, is there any new thinking at all in the administration about how the U.S. could help stabilize the situation there? And I ask the same question about Jerusalem today.
MR. STEINBERG: We obviously are deeply concerned about the situation in Indonesia. We have called on the government and the security forces to avoid violence and to show maximum restraint in response to peaceful demonstrations. We are in contact in a variety of ways with officials in Indonesia. We think that it's very important that they do avoid violence in these kinds of situations, and that, as the Secretary of State said the other day, that they broaden their dialogue with the people of Indonesia. I think that's the role that we think is appropriate to play right now.
And with respect to Jerusalem, obviously, our view is that we're very hopeful -- we very much hope that the conversations that the Secretary will continue today with Prime Minister Netanyahu will lead to progress in that respect.
Q The riots today in Indonesia have been described as the worst in three decades and the U.S. has cancelled a delegation's trip to Jakarta because we cannot ensure their safety and you don't know who they're going to talk to once they get there. Do you see the end of President Soeharto's rule?
MR. STEINBERG: With respect to Admiral Pruether's visit, I would prefer, at least at this point, to say postponed. I mean, the reason that he is not going forward as planned at this point was because of the immediate circumstances -- the combination of uncertainties about whether he would be able to get around and also because of the early return of President Soeharto, the difficulty of getting meetings scheduled. But we're not ruling out the possibility that he would either be in contact with or otherwise have subsequent meetings. We thing that what we would like to see right now is a response by the government that helps facilitate the restoration of public order and a public dialogue.
Q Would one of those scenarios that you would like to have happen include President Soeharto leaving office?
MR. STEINBERG: The issues of their constitution and how that should be pursued are a matter for the people of Indonesia. As I say, what we have advocated is a broadening of the dialogue.
Q Has the U.S. evacuated any of the dependents in the Jakarta embassy?
MR. STEINBERG: We have not evacuated any of the dependents. The Ambassador has been given authority by the Secretary to authorize voluntary departure for dependents. But to the best of my knowledge -- and that's fairly recent -- he has not actually done that yet. But he has that authority at this point. And again, we will see whether he chooses to do that.
Q Jim, can you give a little further description of what these contacts are that are going on -- between us and the Indonesians --
MR. STEINBERG: Well, we pursue all our normal channels. That is, we have senior State Department officials who have been in contact with opposite numbers in Indonesia on a regular basis. The Ambassador and his team in Indonesia are staying in very close touch with political, economic, and security officials. They're in contact with economic officials in connection with the economic reform package -- across the broad spectrum. They are not some specific set of things, but it's the regular, ongoing contact with a full range of Indonesia officials.
Q Jim, Pakistani officials have been quoted as saying that they're looking to the G-8 for a strong statement of condemnation of India. Given what you said a few moments ago, is that an unrealistic expectation? Should they not be looking for that?
MR. STEINBERG: I've learned a long time ago, David, that the purpose of having leaders meet in this format is for them to decide how they want to proceed. And I think that clearly you have all the eight -- all of the eight governments have spoken very clearly to this issue. Whether they will speak to this issue through a statement at the G-8, or whether they may find another forum, I just don't want to try to anticipate at this point. But I think that there is no doubt, absolutely no ambiguity for these eight governments how they feel. And I'm sure that they will discuss how they best think that they can pursue their shared view, which is to see an end to testing.
These are all countries that are signatories to the CTB. All you very strong views on this question. And I think they will -- the leaders themselves will decide what the best way is to show that common front.
Q How is the President monitoring the situation in India and Pakistan?
MR. STEINBERG: The President has the virtue of being accompanied here by his distinguished National Security Advisor, who is talking to him regularly. We're obviously in close touch with the situations in those countries through our embassies there and our folks back in Washington. The President was briefed this morning in some detail by the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, on the full range of these situations: India-Pakistan, Indonesia, the Middle East peace process.
Q Before the airlift event?
MR. STEINBERG: Yes, before the airlift event this morning, before we started the day. And let me just add -- he has also been briefed subsequently. I mean, that is, when we have an opportunity in between, we keep him up to date as events develop.
Q That's fairly constant?
MR. STEINBERG: Quite constant.
Q What do you make of the Moscow newspaper report that Russian military officials feel India will detonate several more blasts, despite their claim that their testing is done, that they will have to detonate three or four more blasts in order to complete their program?
MR. STEINBERG: As you know, the Indians have claimed that this is the end of the series. But whether there are other series, whether they have other intentions is not something that I'm prepared to speculate on. It's obviously something we're going to watch closely. Given the lack of forthcomingness of the Indian government in response to earlier inquiries from the beginning of the time that the Vajpayee government came into power, I don't think we would necessarily take what they've had to say as the gospel on that.
Q On Indonesia, will the President make a new personal appeal to Soeharto to lessen the violence? And how will all of this affect the efforts to have some economic reform there?
MR. STEINBERG: I think the President on a number of occasions in recent days has spoken to this issue, and I think he will continue to speak to it as appropriate. I think that the appeal that he and all of us are making is for the government, and particularly the security forces, to avoid violence, to show restraint, and to open a dialogue.
I'm sorry, what was the second part of your question?
Q How do you continue on trying to get economic reform with all this going on?
MR. STEINBERG: I think we clearly see that both need to move forward, that unless there's confidence in the political situation in Indonesia, it's difficult to pursue the economic reforms. We also believe that the economic reforms are very important to the long-run political stability of Indonesia, because without these economic reforms, without the program that has been worked out between Indonesia, and the IMF, and the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank, the economic crisis would be even deeper and there would be even greater instability in Indonesia.
Q Since the President has spent two days with Kohl and they've had a lot of discussions here about, presumably, the economy here and the like, is there any new issue that they'd like to bring up at the G-8? Is there any change in focus that they might have come across?
MR. STEINBERG: I think one of the things that they both have been talking a lot about, yesterday and today, are the questions of how do you get our work forces ready for the 21st century. And I think that they will try to take some of the discussions that they have had here, and some of the lessons learned from the transformation of the former Easternlander to the broader effort to sustain employability into the 21st century.
There's kind of an opportunity as part of the employability and social inclusion discussion on Saturday in the G-8. I think that this will an important part of their talking not only about how we in advanced industrial societies deal with the challenge of employability, but how in countries that are in transition, such as former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe, and in developing countries, how do we take advantage of these lessons learned.
Q Jim, just one more on Israel. Can you describe how you think today's violence is going to affect the peace process?
MR. STEINBERG: I think that our view is as our view has always been, that the best way to deal with this is for the peace process to move forward. That's why we're so deeply committed to that process. That's why we're working so hard. That's why the Secretary wanted to have another day of discussions with the Prime Minister, because we believe that in the long run the best way to avoid violence and to have security for all the people of the region is for an inclusive and comprehensive peace process.
Q Do you think either of the parties shares your confidence now that that's the best way to --
MR. STEINBERG: We certainly hope so. We certainly hope so. Let me say, James, I think that we believe that both the parties do believe in the peace process. There are obviously a lot of difficulties that they are experiencing right now, but we have no reason to doubt that both sides are committed to peace. They obviously have differences particularly about how to get there at this point, but we would not be pursuing this if we didn't believe both sides wanted that as a goal.
Q Are there any specific U.S. troop obligations to Pakistan if Pakistan were to be attacked by a third party?
MR. STEINBERG: We do not have explicit treaty guarantees. I want to be careful about this because there are all kinds of arcanities of international law, but I think by virtue of the fact that Pakistan is not a member of the NBT, that there is not a negative security guarantee. But I don't want to -- this should not be taken -- you need to ask the people who keep the bible on these things.
Q I just want to be fair about what you're talking about with Indonesia. Would it be fair to summarize your point that the Indonesian government should open talks with the opposition?
MR. STEINBERG: Open talks suggests a kind of a formal negotiation. We're not making specific proposals about how the dialogue should take place. There are lots of ways in which a government can engage with its people, and it's not for us, nor do we propose any specific approach or procedure or format or even specific substantive things. But we do think it's very important in a situation like the one that Indonesia is facing, with difficult economic decisions and a difficult political situation, that there is a real engagement on those issues.
Q Is it true, as reported in the Post, that there were satellite images ahead of time that could have tipped us off to this and they weren't properly analyzed? And if so, does the President know about this, and has he spoken to the Director of the Central Intelligence about that?
MR. STEINBERG: It will probably surprise you greatly that I don't intend to comment on intelligence matters. As you know, the President and the Director have talked, and the President is fully supportive of the Director's review that he's undertaking of these matters and the President continues to have full confidence in Director Tenet.
Q When does the President expect to have the report from Director Tenet?
MR. STEINBERG: I defer to Mike. I wasn't sure. Mike says 10 days.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you. He said, Mark, that when Director Tenet announced Admiral Jeremiah's review, he said they would shoot to complete it within 10 days. I don't know how fast a deadline that was.
I have nothing else, and any other questions you have -- save one observation. Some people have asked me whether the President was experiencing any pain because they noticed that he seemed to be feeling uncomfortable on the ropeline. He is -- he wrenched his back Monday morning doing some stretching exercises when he thought he was going to go play golf. And apparently, just the combination of being on his feet a lot the last day aggravated it. So when he woke up this morning, he really was experiencing a lot of lower back pain.
Q Is he taking anything, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: The doctor just gave him a mild analgesic for it -- I think Motrin was the order of the day. But it has affected his ability to kind of like move along the ropeline, so he was a little stiff. Several of the TV pool people had noticed that.
Q Does he have any kind of cushion or anything in the limo?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q -- any kind of cushion or anything.
MR. MCCURRY: He's got a little back support he uses from time to time.
Q Was the President misinformed about the gender of Gail Halvorsen?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he was uninformed. (Laughter.)
Q Did the speech's text say "she"?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he made the same assumption that I did, that Colonel Halvorsen may have been a WASP, flying in and around that time.
Q WASP? (Laughter.)
Q You mean like George Bush? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: The women service pilots that flew bombers and stuff during World War II, that we celebrated at some event not too long ago.
Thank you. Getting off easy today. I like that.
Q Was the inside of Marine One, did it have to be reconfigured slightly for the Chancellor?
MR. MCCURRY: I have to check on that. I think they may have reconfigured some of the seats in there.
END 6:17 P.M. (L)